Break the Habit

John Schmidt will save Danny. Come hell or a good high.

On May 26, Miami Police arrest Danny on grand theft auto. According to the arrest report, he was driving a stolen car on Flagler Street and SW 44th Place. When he was pulled over, Danny explained to the officer he had borrowed the car from a friend.


Schmidt still has hope. On June 7, he secures a six-month to two-year stay at Spectrum for Danny if he agrees to stay in jail until his June 15 arraignment. Danny refuses. Three days later his father bonds him out for $500.

John Schmidt chats on his cell phone before entering the Miami-Dade courthouse, where he helps criminal drug offenders avoid jail time
Jacqueline Carini
John Schmidt chats on his cell phone before entering the Miami-Dade courthouse, where he helps criminal drug offenders avoid jail time
Schmidt speaks with recovering addicts while visiting the James E. Scott Community Association Transition and Rehabilitation Program
Jacqueline Carini
Schmidt speaks with recovering addicts while visiting the James E. Scott Community Association Transition and Rehabilitation Program

He has not been in contact with Schmidt since.

On June 15, prosecutors drop the charges. Outside the courtroom, Danny is with Jessie. He informs New Times he doesn't want anything to do with Schmidt. "All John had to do was give me a ticket into a program," he says. "That's it."

Asked why he didn't call Schmidt the day after they met May 21, Danny is blunt. "I didn't call him back because I was smoking crack."

Then Jessie reveals she is beginning to doubt Schmidt's sincerity. "I'll be happy when I see [Danny] in a program or at least I get half my money back," she says. "I think it would be unethical of John to take all of my money and Danny doesn't go into a program."

Schmidt is annoyed. "The problem is Danny's lack of cooperation," he says. "He can't go on a three-day crack binge and then call me to tell me he is ready. There has to be some measure of sobriety."

He is adamant that he'll place Danny in rehab once the crack-smoker demonstrates he wants to sober up. "He has to crash and burn on his own," Schmidt affirms. "But as long as Jessie keeps enabling him, I can't help him."


A week later Jessie is sipping a latt' in the caf' at Barnes & Noble in Coral Gables. She is still taking Danny's calls, and she is still waiting for Schmidt to place Danny into Spectrum. Since he left the pokey, Danny has been telling her he wants to start a new business putting up fences. "I'd buy him the tools, but I am not handing him any more money," she says, not realizing Danny would pawn the tools for cash. Despite her drama with Danny, she cannot explain why she keeps putting herself through so much grief. "I don't know why," she says. "I analyze it over and over. I feel like I am the only person he has."

Schmidt, on the other hand, has moved on to other drug addicts. Since meeting Danny, he has placed five people into Delancey Street, Ocala-based Phoenix House, Spectrum, and St. Luke's Recovery Addiction Center in Miami. And he still hasn't given up on finding a property to accommodate 100 to 200 resident addicts.

"There are a lot of people in Miami who can do what I do," Schmidt says. "But they don't have the experience with therapeutic communities like Delancey Street that I do. I don't want to be a mental health professional, and I don't want to be a certified addiction professional. It is not necessary. I am an ex-addict who knows addicts." He convinced me to take a plea and enter rehab. I have been clean for over a year thanks to him.

For two years I slept anywhere I could in Overtown and Liberty City. John taught me discipline and self-respect.

I dont know why, she says. I analyze it over and over. I feel like I am the only person he has.

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